Published on 19-Mar-2012
"We were surprised by the performance gain IDAA provided, as well as its ability to further boost the capacity of our IBM zEnterprise System. " - Reto Estermann, Director, Information Technology,Swiss Re
Big Data, Business Analytics, Smarter Analytics, Smarter Analytics - Increase operational efficiency, Smarter Computing, System z Software
With 2.5 billion transactions and records dating back nearly 30 years, reinsurance company Swiss Re needed a solution with the flexibility and capacity to manage their growing data workloads. Importantly, they needed a system that would also scale to meet future data and analytics needs. In this case study, we learn how Swiss Re accomplished their goals with the IBM IDAA DB2 analytics accelerator to increase the company’s agility, and provide built-in scalability for future growth.
Acquire insights across multiple international locations of claims information from numerous insurance companies to increase the understanding of risk, agility in identifying profitable segments, and the ability to make decisive decisions quickly by internal business users.
Deploy IBM® zEnterprise™ System with IBM DB2® for z/OS® to perform data analysis and reporting from a central location, with IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator (IDAA)—powered by IBM Netezza® technology—to deliver faster responses to individual analytic queries.
Increases satisfaction among internal business users by speeding report generation by 70 percent through faster query response times with IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator for z/OS. Off-loads workloads, reducing processing costs. Implements transparently, without program modification, enabling fast and cost-effective installation.
The Swiss Re Group is a leading wholesale provider of reinsurance, insurance and other insurance-based forms of risk transfer. Dealing direct and working through brokers, its global client base consists of insurance companies, mid-to-large-sized corporations and public sector clients. From standard products to tailor-made coverage across all lines of business, Swiss Re deploys its capital strength, expertise and innovation power to enable the risk taking upon which enterprise and progress in society depend. Founded in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1863, Swiss Re serves clients through a network of over 60 offices globally and is rated “AA–” by Standard & Poor’s, “A1” by Moody’s and “A+” by A.M. Best.
For Swiss Re, the challenge of storing both current and historical claims data for up to 30 years puts significant demands on the company’s IT infrastructure. And following the acquisition of GE Insurance Solutions, Swiss Re had to expand the amount of data on its mainframe to support analysis, creating a need to increase system capacity and availability while keeping IT costs flat.
Because transactions increased tenfold since the acquisition, Swiss Re required a faster way to retrieve information that was seamless, transparent and deployable without costly downtime. Creating a single version of truth across all Swiss Re locations could rapidly transform the management of its valuable claims into consistent data to help generate new cross-organizational insights.
With roughly 2.5 billion transactions in the company’s financial data store, fast and accurate analysis is considered essential for setting the right premiums, as well as performing profit and loss projections based on data from both open and finalized claims. “We needed a consolidated view of all claims, to enable company-wide analysis of data in any combination,” says Reto Estermann, director, information technology at Swiss Re. “Our business users also needed a way to run their reports in minutes or hours, instead of days, to speed high-level decision making that affects the bottom line.”
Optimizing workloads to speed query response times
To manage over 40 TB of operational data, Swiss Re deployed a workload management solution on the IBM zEnterprise System based on IBM DB2 for z/OS to process all data loads from a central location. The solution uses the IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator (IDAA)—powered by IBM Netezza technology—as a high-performance appliance add-on to transparently deliver dramatically faster responses to individual queries. IDAA is a marriage of IBM DB2 for z/OS and Netezza technology to accelerate complex queries in a highly secure and available environment.
In addition to speeding query response times, IDAA offloads selected queries that are more efficiently processed on the IDAA appliance. “We were surprised by the performance gain IDAA provided, as well as its ability to further boost the capacity of our IBM zEnterprise System,” says Estermann. “IDAA provided the high availability our global business users demand as they rely on the system to run analysis and reports 24x7.”
IBM DB2 for z/OS—seamlessly joined with the IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator—provided a single entry point for both transactional and deep analytics, as well as a stable platform for application development and disaster recovery. The solution helps mitigate database administration costs while speeding up the performance of typical data warehouse–specific workloads by an order of magnitude when compared to traditional database-only access.
Making system access transparent for greater ease of use
The blending of DB2, Netezza technology and zEnterprise in one solution means that all applications use the existing DB2 interface to access data, which simplifies both access and behind-the-scenes administration. DB2 for z/OS and the IDAA have very different approaches to retrieving data. DB2 is optimized for mixed workloads, and IDAA is optimized for specific data warehouse–type queries. The solution enables organizations to capitalize on the best approach for every query submitted. The DB2 optimizer automatically decides on the best technology for execution. “The same query to DB2 produces faster response times without fail, regardless of what types of data users are looking for,” says Estermann. “That means access to the system is transparent and unchanged for all business users, giving them greater ease of use for running reports on the fly.”
Generating analytic reports in less than half the time
Combined with IDAA, DB2 for z/OS helped Swiss Re integrate operational data with advanced analytics to gain better insights from claims transactions in far less time than before. “In testing IDAA with production queries and production data, we’re seeing queries that run 50 percent faster at a minimum, and sometimes even faster,” says Estermann. “When you consider that queries account for up to 60 percent of the time needed for report generation, IDAA provides a significant improvement.”
Accelerated report generation is a crucial advantage that benefits Swiss Re’s business users, who demand timely, reliable analysis to drive the business. “Our users are getting their reports as much as 70 percent faster—reports that took 10 hours are now available the same day, so user satisfaction has increased dramatically,” says Estermann. “Because those reports contain key analytics that guide pricing and decision making across our lines of business, the solution has the potential to sharpen the company’s competitive edge moving forward.”
Improving staff efficiency on a single platform
The zEnterprise System reduced cost by optimizing workloads from both the reinsurance and the investment side of Swiss Re’s business on a single platform. “Our infrastructure staff no longer has to maintain data in different places,” says Estermann. “Standardizing on the same hardware made the entire system easier to manage, and being able to seamlessly blend our legacy applications with the latest version of DB2 means there’s no steep learning curve.”
IDAA allowed Swiss Re to significantly improve performance for selected workloads. In addition to reducing response times for queries, IDAA also reduced CPU consumption by off-loading workloads to the Netezza appliance. “Deploying IDAA on zEnterprise actively supported ongoing cost management on our mainframe—we’re now anticipating rapid ROI within three to six months,” says Estermann.
Relying on IBM for infrastructure transformation
After 20-plus years using DB2 software, Swiss Re was already comfortable with IBM’s technology and expertise in recommending the right solution to handle its needs today and in the future as business continues to grow. “Working with IBM has been like opening a constant communication channel, and having them really listen to what we wanted to accomplish,” says Estermann. “Working with really good professionals from IBM Labs and DB2 gave us the capacity we needed, plus even more performance than we’d bargained for.”
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© Copyright IBM Corporation 2012 IBM CorporationSoftware GroupRoute 100Somers, NY 10589 Produced in the United States of AmericaMarch 2012 IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, DB2, zEnterprise and z/OS are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml Netezza is a trademark or registered trademark of IBM International Group B.V., an IBM Company. This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. The performance data and client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided.